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Efforts To Fight Cholera In DRC Need To Include Sanitation, Waste Facility Improvements, Behavior Change, UNICEF Official Says

A cholera epidemic that began in January 2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is continuing because of “poor hygiene, lack of awareness of the population about transmission mechanisms, very limited access to protected and monitored water sources and lack of sanitation infrastructure,” according to Nona Zicherman, chief of emergency operations in DRC for UNICEF, IRIN reports. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 30,000 cholera cases have been identified and more than 700 people have died of the disease since June 2011, the news service states. Zicherman “noted that emergency and medium- and long-term interventions to limit the spread of cholera needed to be developed,” including disinfecting contaminated areas, monitoring water sources, changing behaviors related to hygiene, and constructing water supply and sanitation facilities, according to IRIN (4/30).

‘Taboo’ Surrounding Toilets, Sanitation Hindering Progress Toward Improved Access

“Governments are failing to fund projects to improve access to toilets and other sanitation services in poor countries because the subject remains ‘taboo,’ a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “About 1.1 billion people across the world still defecate in the open because they have no toilets, according to the United Nations,” Reuters writes. “It’s the last big taboo and as a result more than one million kids die every year. Diarrhea is the second largest cause of death after respiratory infections in young children,” Frank Rijsberman, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the foundation, said at the Global Water Summit 2012 conference in Rome, the news service notes.

U.K.’s DfID, USAID, Others Announce Commitments To Improving Water, Sanitation Worldwide

U.K. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell on Friday “announced a doubling of the U.K.’s effort to provide clean water and sanitation to the world’s poorest countries,” the Guardian reports (Elliot, 4/20). At a High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation in Washington, D.C., Mitchell “announced that the U.K., through [the Department for International Development (DfID)], would double the number of people it reached with aid in water, sanitation and hygiene education in the next two years, going from 30 to 60 million people globally by 2015,” according to a UNICEF press release (4/20).

World Finance, Development Ministers Meet In Washington For High-Level Meeting On Water, Sanitation

The Guardian reports that “60 finance and development ministers [will] gather in Washington on Friday at a high-level meeting on sanitation and water.” According to the newspaper, “The Sanitation and Water for All meeting, convened by Anthony Lake, executive director of the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF, follows an announcement in March by UNICEF and the World Health Organization that the world had met the millennium development goal (MDG) overall target for access to safe drinking water in 2010, but that 783 million people were still missing out.”

U.S. Delegation Expresses Support For Two Vaccination Campaigns While In Haiti

“A campaign to introduce new childhood vaccines to Haiti will save tens of thousands of lives over the next decade, [CDC Director] Dr. Thomas Frieden told [NPR’s health blog ‘Shots’] at the end of a two-day tour of the beleaguered country,” the blog reports. “Frieden was part of a delegation to Haiti that included his boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,” according to the blog, which notes, “When the U.S. delegation arrived, a different vaccination campaign had just gotten started — a pilot project to immunize against cholera” (Knox, 4/17). According to another article in “Shots,” “U.S. health officials have been cool to that pilot project behind the scenes,” but Sebelius expressed support for the project.

WHO, U.N.-Water Report Examines Access To Safe Drinking Water, Improved Sanitation

“Nearly 780 million people are deprived of safe drinking water — and 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation — all because governments aren’t spending scarce resources wisely, according to a joint report [.pdf] of the World Health Organization and U.N.-Water,” VOA News reports. Though “more than two billion people gained access to safe drinking water and 1.8 billion gained access to improved sanitation” between 1990 and 2010, billions of people still lack these basic services, the report noted, according to the news service.

Use Of Sewage-Contaminated Water To Irrigate Crops Poses Disease Risk In Zimbabwe, IRIN Reports

IRIN examines how local Zimbabwean farmers’ usage of water containing raw sewage to irrigate their crops poses a risk of disease transmission to people who consume the vegetables. In the capital Harare, less than half of the raw sewage produced is treated before being sent back into tributaries, according to IRIN, which notes, “In a recent report, Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said 60 percent of the capital’s residents did not have access to clean water, and 10 percent relied on boreholes and unprotected wells.” Since a cholera outbreak in 2008, UNICEF and other international donors have been helping Zimbabwean municipalities treat their water, but the UNICEF program is winding down, leaving some unsure whether local authorities “can go it alone,” IRIN writes (4/16).

Cholera Vaccination Pilot Project Begins In Haiti

“A year and a half after cholera first struck Haiti, a tiny portion of the population on Thursday began getting vaccinated against the waterborne disease that has infected more than 530,000 Haitians and killed more than 7,040,” the New York Times reports (Sontag, 4/12). The pilot project, which will reach only one percent of Haiti’s population, “aim[s] … to show that it’s possible to give the required two doses over a two-week period to desperately poor and hard-to-reach people,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” writes. “If it works, the plan is to convince the Haitian government, deep-pocketed donors and international health agencies to support a much bigger campaign to vaccinate millions of Haitians at highest risk of cholera,” according to the blog (Knox, 4/12).

Sri Lankan Health Officials Report Increase In Number Of Dengue Cases In First Quarter Compared To 2011

Sri Lankan health authorities “have reported a three-fold increase in the number of recorded dengue fever cases in the first quarter of this year,” IRIN reports. According to the national Epidemiology Unit, “9,317 dengue cases and 38 deaths were reported in the first three months of 2012, [compared with] 3,103 in the first quarter of 2011,” the news service writes, noting that more than half of the cases were recorded “in the country’s Western Province, where most of the island’s 20 million inhabitants live.” Intermittent rain, which allows stagnant water to collect and create mosquito breeding grounds, are expected to continue through April, and “[h]ealth officials agree that removing mosquito breeding sites is the most important step in mitigating risk,” according to IRIN. “In May 2010 the government launched a campaign to curb the spread of the disease,” and last year the number of cases dropped when compared to 2010, the news service notes (4/11).

To Improve Global Health, Toilets Must Be Redesigned To Work Without Connection To Sanitation Grid

“The toilet is a magnificent thing. … Unfortunately it is an impractical luxury for about two-thirds of the world’s seven billion people because it relies on connections to water and sewerage systems that must be built and maintained at great expense,” a Bloomberg editorial writes. “About 40 percent of all people, an estimated 2.6 billion of them, have no access to even a minimally sanitary facility, according to the World Health Organization,” and “[t]he result is illness and early death. Diarrheal diseases, including those linked to improper sanitation, are the second largest killer in the developing world, taking two million lives annually,” the editorial continues.

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